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POPE-AUDIENCE Sep-27-2006 (580 words) With photos. xxxi

Christians must ask God for help when faith is in doubt, pope says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must have the courage to ask God for help and encouragement when their faith is troubled or shaken by uncertainty, Pope Benedict XVI said.

It is often difficult to understand what God is teaching or asking of his children, the pope said during his Sept. 27 weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

But, he said, people must find "the courage to say, 'I don't understand you, Lord. Listen to me. Help me understand.'"

Christians have "the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for an explanation," the pope said, and asking for further clarification "is the true way to pray and speak with Jesus."

Not only does this show that believers realize their own limited ability to understand God's greater plan, but it also demonstrates their faith in receiving "enlightenment and strength" from God who can grant them, he said.

In an address to some 30,000 pilgrims from all over the world, the pope continued a series of talks on the apostles, this time reflecting on the life and example of Thomas.

Even though Thomas is mostly remembered for having doubted the risen Christ was alive and among the apostles, Pope Benedict said the faithful can still "take heart from the life of Thomas," who shows that there is comfort available in times of uncertainty and that "doubt can lead to spiritual growth."

The pope recalled Thomas' courage and loyalty when he wanted to accompany Jesus on a dangerous journey back to Bethany where the people there had tried to stone Jesus.

It was Thomas who said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him," which reveals "a precious lesson" in Christian living, the pope said.

It not only means one should be ready to sacrifice one's own life for Christ, but also more importantly means one should "never leave Jesus' side," since being Christian means living together with Jesus, he said.

Thomas shows the faithful they should not be afraid to ask Christ for help in understanding his words, said the pope.

After Jesus told his disciples "Where I am going, you know the way," it was Thomas who asked, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"

The pope said Jesus used that occasion to reveal that he himself was the way, the truth and the life.

Lastly, he said, the "doubting Thomas" helps the faithful learn that a true, mature faith in God does not rest upon having tangible or visible proof: Only after Thomas put his hand on Jesus' wounds did he believe Christ had risen from death and proclaim, "My lord and my God."

The pope said this is one of "the most splendid professions of faith in the New Testament" because it shows Thomas touching a man and then proclaiming his faith in God, "whom he neither saw nor touched."

Jesus, in fact, underlines what true faith is when he responded, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Before returning to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, at the end of the general audience, the pope reminded everyone that Sept. 27 marked World Tourism Day.

He said he hoped tourism would increasingly "foster dialogue and mutual respect of cultures" so as to become "an open door to peace and living together in harmony."


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